In what was undoubtedly one of the funniest shows of the JFL Northwest comedy festival last week, Saturday Night Live Weekend Update news anchor and stand-up comedian Michael Che proved himself to be more than what he appears to be on television. For those familiar with Che’s on-screen weekly ten minutes of news jokes, he has a reputation for giving the “black” comment on Weekend Update stories by pointing out the obvious thing former anchors wouldn’t; this has a lot to do with the fact that he is the program’s first ever African-American co-host. But if you like Che on television, it is his stand-up that will make you love him.
Fellow New Yorker and recently signed ROC Nation DJ and comic Cypha Sounds warmed the crowd up, mocking the venue’s “Elks Lodge” feel and its size. While the Biltmore was certainly an odd and perhaps unwise choice for the likes of Che—his popularity is growing rapidly and being a writer and cast-member of SNL brings out crowds whether they are familiar with his stand-up or not—the packed sold out room felt intimate and the energy united the comics with their audience.
Che’s opening comment could not have been more perfect for the Vancouver audience: “This is a very diverse group of white people. I see some eggshell…I see some pearl.” In one of the most organically funny shows of the festival, Che’s relaxed method of performance was not systematic but rather a well-balanced combination of stand-up and conversational comic stylings. Using that same pointing-out-the-obvious thing he uses on SNL, Che drew from racial issues and subjects on sexuality. His sort of unapologetic scoundrel swagger definitely sat well with the audience, and he asked them how they were liking the show and what kind of porn they watched…you know, just cause he was curious. But none of this ever felt crude or invasive, but rather like a buddy was just trying to have a real chat with you.
Finally spouting a Donald Trump joke that didn’t feel recycled and tired—which is hard to do as nearly every visiting American JFL comic took a stab at the Republican candidate last week—Che remarked that he actually liked Trump because he’s not a great guy. In short, shitty people are more fun to party with. Obama would scold him for talking about a chic in a derogatory way. Che’s comedy style is up-front but never in attack mode, which makes the show a relaxed one. Unfortunately the Biltmore had another show set to begin immediately after Che’s, but the comic told the audience to meet him outside “by a dumpster or something” to take pictures. And he stood there until every person who wanted one got it.
While Cypha Sounds—who was hilarious in his own right—had an ego-based who-gives-a-fuck approach, Che seemed entirely aware that he still has a lot of fans to make. The fact that he appeared to be effortlessly funny, unlike seasoned performer Wanda Sykes who was hit and miss during her night at the festival, sets a precedent for a long career beyond the SNL news desk.